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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)
Missa sine Nomine a 6 [28:26]
Giovanni Maria NANINO (1544-1607)
Lamentationes: Feria V in Coena Domini; Feria VI in Parasceve; Sabbato Sancto [28:26]
CantArte Regensburg/Hubert Velten
released 1998.
CAPRICCIO C10766 [56:52]

Reviewed as lossless download from (NO booklet)

My chief reason for reviewing this recording is the music by Nanino, a composer unknown to me until Toccata, with typical entrepreneurism, released a recording mostly of his sacred music (TOCC0235 – Retrospective Autumn 2016 and review by Johan van Veen).

There are other recordings of the Palestrina, notably from the Choir of the Carmelite Priory directed by John McCarthy, available as a download only.  (Decca Oiseau Lyre 4758717, with Missa Ecce Ego Johannes, available from Presto, or Decca twofer, same coupling plus Missa Tu es Petrus, Magnificat sexti toni, Missa Assumpta est Maria and Missa Veni Sponsa Christi – subscribers stream from Qobuz, or purchase download).

By comparison with the Decca recording CantArte Regensburg sound rather subdued: though Hubert Venten takes the Gloria slightly faster than John McCarthy, the effect is much less festive, which this section of the Mass is above all meant to be, opening with the joyful words of the angels to the shepherds in the Bethlehem fields.  Though the Missa Ecce Ego Johannes has been supplanted by a recording from the Westminster Cathedral Choir and James O’Donnell on Hyperion CDH55407 (with Magnificat quarti toni, etc., one of my Hyperion Top 30 in its earlier incarnation) the Carmelites’ Missa sine nomine is still the one to have.  It’s not perfect – there’s rather too much vibrato for my liking – but the different sections of the Mass sound different.  On Capriccio all the sections sound very much the same, which sounds either calm and soothing or boring according to your inclination: I lean towards the latter.

Of the other Masses on the Decca twofer that of Tu es Petrus and the Mass based on it from King’s Cambridge and Stephen Cleobury yield to a Hyperion recording from Westminster Cathedral Choir and Martin Baker, CDA677851 – last few CDs remaining, or download with pdf booklet from Hyperion.  Missa Assumpta est Maria is best obtained from The Tallis Scholars (Gimell CDGIM204, 2 CDs, budget price) or The Sixteen (Coro COR16091 – Download Roundup August 2011/1).

Writing about a performance by an all-female ensemble of Missa Veni Sponsa Christi on Divine Art DDA2507 – review – I stated that the ideal recording of that work still awaited us and that remains the case.  Meanwhile the St John’s performance under George Guest on the Decca twofer, originally released as long ago as 1968, is good enough to add to the value of that set as a download.

The Regensburg recording of five sets of Nanino’s Lamentations – one lesson each for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and all three for Holy Saturday – offers what appears to be the only show in town.  The straightforward performances suit this music better than the livelier sections of the Mass: Jeremiah’s mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of his people in Babylon becomes a lament for the trial and execution of Jesus.

There’s no booklet with the Capriccio download or either version of the Decca Palestrina, but the texts of the Mass and of the lessons from the book of Lamentations are easily found online.  The lessons set here are 11-2, 28-9, 322-24, 41-2 and 51-4.  Unless and until a better recording comes along this is valuable in adding to our scant knowledge of Nanino’s music – in its day often more highly regarded than Palestrina.

1 Gavin Dixon disliked this recording – review – but I very much liked it, as did several other reviewers.  Performances of Palestrina seem to divide opinion sharply.

Brian Wilson


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